For their foray into the NYC pizza scene, two of the city’s favorite chefs enlisted some decidedly un-New York help.
Restaurateurs and Queens natives Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli, the fixtures behind Frankies 457 Spuntino and Franks Wine Bar in Carroll Gardens, opened F&F Pizzeria last week at 459 Court St. They collaborated with baker Chad Robertson of San Francisco’s cult-favorite bread mecca Tartine, as well as Chris Bianco of Phoenix’s Pizza Bianco.
That’s right, they got a Californian — and maybe worse, an Arizonan — to tell them how to make pizza.
“Regardless of where they’re from, we got the best of the best,” Castronovo tells The Post, rather defensively.
And besides, “I think of myself as a student of world, not a Californian,” says a very Californian Robertson, who you’ll find surfing when he’s not tending to his international sourdough kingdom.
He even flew in his sourdough starter — a gloopy mixture that gets bread to rise with natural bacteria instead of yeast — from the West Coast to help “the Franks” complete their foodie empire on Court Street. It results in a wheat crust that’s crackly, chewy and almost focaccia-like in its bubble-to-crumb ratio.
F&F is already drawing long lines of stroller-toting Brooklynites, who apparently don’t care one bit which coast these slices come from. In the first few days the shop was open, the Franks ran out of dough by afternoon, closing the storefront’s garage doors on waiting customers. By the following weekend, the line continued to spill down the block.
Toppings are minimal for now: mozzarella, cheese and tomato or just tomato — like what your lactose-intolerant friend orders, but made significantly less sad with a drizzle of the Franks’ proprietary olive oil. Slices come in Sicilian squares and New York triangles and cost between $3.75 and $6. You can take home a whole pie for $24 to $40.
“We’re focused on getting the dough right,” Castronovo says. “Toppings are Phase 2. But we’ve got two restaurants full of amazing ingredients, so we we can be experimental.”
Castronovo and Falcinelli say their priority was to have a crust that was more easily digestible than the typical pie, which is usually made with white flour and commercial yeast and is harder on the stomach, Robertson says. They’ve followed the likes of acclaimed sourdough pizzerias, such as Ops in Bushwick and Midtown’s Upside Pizza, which just opened a Brooklyn outpost, Norm’s, blocks away from F&F Pizzeria.
F&F lets its dough rise for four days. And although this led to some supply issues in the demand-heavy first week, it’ll be a welcome change for those who don’t have iron stomachs, Robertson says.
“The goal is to not notice a difference except till after, when you feel a lot better,” says Robertson, who, along with his wife and co-founder of Tartine, Elisabeth Prueitt, just released their fourth cookbook, “Tartine: A Classic Revisited.”
Robertson, for his part, is back in California and at peace knowing that his dough recipe may change as the Franks scale up their operation, which may even see sourdough pasta pop up on the menu.
“Maybe they got inspired from us,” Robertson says, “but they’re going to make this pizza a wholly new New York thing.”